The Big Lie

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     When we are born, we are without knowledge, purpose, personality, direction, or mindset. We have no preconceived notions of ethnicity, politics, right or wrong, wealth or poverty, friends, or family. We are empty vessels to pour love, knowledge, and experience into. First, we hear and see. That is if we are not hearing or sight impaired. We absorb information and through sight and sound. Through repetition, we begin to learn. Babies, infants, and children have the greatest capacity for learning. Through osmosis of their surroundings, other’s actions, and reactions, they can absorb vast amounts of information and learn multiple languages without an accent by the time they are 4 years. They do this with relative ease and virtually no deliberate practice. They are not even phased by their own failures. Babies will fall on their butts a hundred times and will still get up to try and walk one more time. They don’t even know and care that people may be laughing at their failure, out of love of course. They will keep doing so until they take that first step. That first step is the pathway to success in any endeavor and beginning of the journey where dreams are realized. 

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” ~ Lao Tzu


     Then, as we grow, we become self-aware. We discover we have arms, legs, and a voice. As we continue to absorb the vast amounts information, we develop personalities, likes and dislikes, opinions, and attitudes. We develop an affinity for different things that will eventually become our hobbies and possibly our occupations. We learn from our parents, brothers and sisters, relatives, teachers and closest friends, the people we love the most and spend the most time with. The people that have the most influence over us are our parents. Our parents are the examples that we follow. We see and hear everything they do, and they teach us by example. Of all the teachers we are expose to, it is their words and actions that shape who we become. Our thoughts about our own ability and opinions of others are cemented into our subconscious well into our adulthood. 


     And then big lies are told to us. 


      I had a client once. I’ll call him Dave. He was a timid guy in his late 20’s and walked with hunched shoulders. His posture was that of someone with low self-esteem. He was a nice-looking guy but had trouble getting a girlfriend. When he spoke, he did not make eye contact. Whenever I would correct his form on an exercise, he would mutter, “Sorry.” Anytime I would make an adjustment to his form and technique it was immediately followed by, “Sorry.” It was “Sorry, sorry, sorry.” all the time. I would come to learn more about his upbringing. His father was a former Navy Seal. You would think that a son of a former Navy Seal would grow up with confidence and a strong physical demeanor. That was not the case. As I got to know him, I learned that his father was very harsh with him when he was growing up and often made him feel inferior. His father was a disciplinarian. While I don’t know all the details of his upbringing, it was clear that his father had a profound impact on how he viewed himself and his worth to the world. He did not value himself highly and it showed in the way he walked, talked, stood, and behaved. 


      My mother was born in 1947 in South Korea and was raised in poverty. At the ripe old age of 12 she had to work so she and her family would not go hungry. She was beautiful and super smart with only an elementary school education. At an early age, my mother learned to work for survival. When she was 17, she met and married my father in an arranged marriage which was common in those days. Back then, in the Korean culture, it was customary for the bride to move in with the family of the husband. This was where she would also learn to work in service to the family. Right or wrong, this would shape who she would become. In 1972, we moved to the United States because my parents wanted a better life for us. My mother was the backbone of the family. She cooked, cleaned, and worked a fulltime job with my father in the dry-cleaning business they saved money to buy in the mid-70s. She was a workhorse. I didn’t realize it at the time, but she was a miracle worker. They bought a house and then another one on the same street. We lived in one and rented the other. We were not rich in comparison to the other families in the neighborhood, but we never went without food, clothing, and a roof over our heads. They paid for our college education, all three of us.


     Growing up, I learned to appreciate and love her cooking. She was an amazing cook. As a child I guess I was kind of spoiled. I often demanded certain types of food and rejected other kinds. If it was something I didn’t like I usually didn’t want to finish it. My mother was the child of a poor upbringing that was punctuated by moments of hunger. It was natural for her tell me to eat everything. To waste food was a sin. “There are people starving in Africa.” was she would say.  This was her natural instinct. I was always told to finish my food. Do not waste food. And anytime there was leftover food my mother consumed it herself, oftentimes sitting alone at the dinner table long after everyone else had gotten up. I didn’t know how this would affect me later on. Living in scarcity was my mother’s natural state. This is exactly where she would stay until her untimely death from cancer at age 53.

     You see, I developed a very large appetite. Whenever I sat down to eat, I ate more than was necessary. I ate more than the capacity of my stomach. I can remember at times eating so much I can feel the food at the top of my stomach. No matter how full I was as long as it tasted good, I just kept eating. My friends all commented on my incredible appetite. At the age of 12 I started to workout. My father bought me a set of weights. I fell in love with working out and fitness. Without exercise, I would have turned out very differently.

What we hear from the people we love in our childhood will shape who we believe we are. It will define the way we view and value ourselves. It will affect our confidence and ability to undertake challenging endeavors and bring them to a successful conclusion. Here’s the problem. Just because they love you, it doesn’t mean they give you good advice. Have you heard these?


“Why do you want to do that?”

“We don’t have money and can’t afford that.”
“They are going to laugh at you.”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“That’s not how you do things.”
“People are mean.”
“Money doesn’t grow on trees.”
“That’s impossible.”
“You can’t do that.”

When you hear enough of this, it eventually turns to:

“Why do I want to do that?”
“I don’t have money and can’t afford that.”
“They are going to laugh at me.”
“What’s wrong with me.”
and on and on……


      Therefore, so many dreams, desires and goals are squashed early. Any difficulty or struggle proves that it can’t be done in our minds. We give up at the first sign of trouble. Then we look at others who have achieved success and say, “They got lucky.” Then something even worse happens. We pass it on to our children just as it was passed on to us. We create a generational chain reaction until one person in that chain who is special succeeds against the odds. 


     Instead of surrounding ourselves with the people who push us to be better we spend time with people who want to wallow with us in our own failures. Instead of persevering through failure, we give up. Instead of sharing our dreams with people that will support and encourage us, we tell them to the wrong people that doubt you and tell you all the ways you will fail and the obstacles. Instead of looking at the possibilities, we look at all the things that can go wrong. Then, we lose our hunger to get up and take that first step. For the 95% of people that fail to launch, it is because of the inability to take that first step. If they manage to take it, they turn and run at the first sign of trouble or struggle. 


     Remember, adversity and struggle are necessary to achieve greatness in any endeavor. They are the training grounds where the strong persevere. They are where the weak become strong. They are where the fearful become faithful. They are where the victims of villains become heroes. Coal becomes a diamond under intense pressure. They are where the impossible becomes possible. When you encounter trouble, struggle, and failure in pursuit of a dream, go deep and accept it as training, training for even tougher times. Graduating from these training grounds will give you superhuman ability to stand where very few can. Become a certified master of struggle and self-improvement!


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